avios

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Trip Report: British Airways Business Class ORY-LHR-JFK

Also see:

I won’t spend as much time on this one since I just outlined BA/OpenSkies biz class in the link above. That post talked about flying there EWR-ORY, but in this one, I want to talk about getting back.

It cost slightly more Avios points because we flew ORY-LHR-JFK instead of direct. Since it’s priced per segment, I spent 49,000 Avios + ~$400 on these flights, which would’ve retailed for over $6,000.

The differences

For the ORY-LHR segment, we got the usual intra-European “business class” which is just regular seats with the middle one blocked out. The flight was only an hour, and I wasn’t expecting much, if anything. To my surprise, we were served a course of afternoon tea.

BA tea service - SO CUTE!

BA tea service – SO CUTE!

The other big difference was that instead of a Boeing 757-200 like the flight over, we flew back on a 747-400 for LHR-JFK which had… Read More

Trip Report: British Airways OpenSkies Club World Class EWR-ORY

As part of my recent trip to Paris, I got to fly from EWR to ORY on OpenSkies, a subsidiary of British Airways that flies exclusively from NYC-Paris. They have one flight that leaves from EWR and another from JFK. Due to award availability, I dragged myself over to EWR, but was really excited to take this flight.

This is a unique product for British Airways because it’s one of the few routes they fly that don’t involve a connection at LHR, which can add a lot of extra money in dreaded fuel surcharges. I did pay ~$450 + 40,000 Avios for the flight, but in my eyes, it was completely worth it. This flight often retails for over $7,000!

Click here to read about the award redemption for this flight in more detail.

The seat and flight

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Just booked: JFK-LAX-NAN-AKL-SYD-MEL-AUH-CAI-JFK

And I’m super freaking excited about it.

So the title is a bit of a fib: I have a flight alert and fare tracker set for LAX-NAN and will buy it if I have to, and I haven’t gotten the initial JFK-LAX but am not really so worried about it.

This is what the trip will look like:

25,000 miles and all around the world

25,000 miles and all around the world

 

So far, I’ve used 132K miles per person and gotten over 6 cents of value out of each one. This trip would be nearly $17,000 if bought at retail price.

It’ll be from Dec 24th, 2013 to January 7th, 2014. It includes Christmas in Fiji, New Years in Sydney, stopovers in New Zealand and Melbourne, and a quick trip to see the pyramids on the Gaza strip in Cairo.

So how’d I book it? Segment by segment, and with a combination of AAdvantage, MileagePlus, and Avios miles.

The breakdown (notice there’s no Delta!):

JFK-LAX: will most likely use AAdvantage miles when I earn a few more, or maybe MileagePlus if necessary

LAX-NAN: would like to use AAdvantage miles for this. Might have to purchase it, and it would be the only leg I’d have to buy. However, it’s only $750 right now and would net me a nice amount of miles as I’m Platinum on American and the flight is on Air Pacific. Still, I’m holding out for award space.

NAN-AKL: 17,500 x 2 (so 35,000) MileagePlus miles on Air New Zealand

AKL-SYD: 9,000 AAdvantage miles for one and 10,000 Avios for the other – both on Qantas

SYD-MEL: 4,500 x 2 (so 9,000) Avios on Qantas, baby. Wonderful redemption rate!

MEL-AUH: 45,000 x 2 (so 90,000) AAdvantage miles for Etihad business class to Abu Dhabi

AUH-CAI-JFK: 60,000 x 2 (so 120,000) MileagePlus miles transferred in from Ultimate Rewards. Includes a 17-hour stopover in Cairo, then back to NYC in business class on Egyptair.

All-in-all, a very good award IMHO. 5 new countries, four new airlines, and two new business class products (I didn’t feel the need to book the short hauls in business) – not to mention an amazing life experience! This is exactly why I’m so crazy about collecting points and miles: I can go on awesome trips like this and actually 1) afford them and 2) travel in style. And the best part is that, with a little strategic planning, you can really maximize what you get for free.

As a litmus test, I went and found the exact flights over on Kayak and priced out how much the itinerary I booked would cost on the retail market. Here’s what I found:

FIJI

 

When I factor in the two remaining legs to book, I estimate this itinerary will be over $17,000. Cray!

Here’s where I was able to extract even MORE value out of this booking aside from the goal value of 2 cents per mile:

  • Having the Citi AAdvantage Select card gives me 10% of redeemed miles back per year, up to 10,000 miles. I just redeemed 100K miles and will get 10K back – making my cost here only 90K miles. I value 10,000 AAdvantage miles at roughly $200, so it’s totally worth paying the annual fee of $95 to get those miles back.
  • The Barclaycard Arrival came with a $440 signup bonus, which I will redeem for the taxes, booking fees, and fuel surcharges. This means that there was literally ZERO out-of-pocket expense in booking these awards. Amazing.
  • My partner has a Chase United Explorer card which gave us access to Saver awards even when the site told us none were available. That’s huge.
  • I just need to add that this booking really shows the value of Avios. I know the program gets knocked quite a bit, but I was able to get some great value out of it. I also am factoring in the flight times into the equation. I had the pick of literally dozens of flights – all for free. Having all those choices is something I really loved.
  • Lastly, thinking of this award booking as one project instead of individual segments really helped me justify the “not amazing” redemption values of some segments. The first on Air New Zealand, for example, only got 3 cents of value per mile. However, on the Etihad segment, I got over 13 cents of value for each mile. That is a huge WOW. By thinking of it this way, the average value of all my miles really came into focus.

 

Very much looking forward to the flights, trip reports, and of course all the amazing new places. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, and my heart is bursting with excitement and gratitude at being able to actually do this. More soon as always.

Mo’ Avios, Mo’ Problemz

Since meeting the first spending requirement on my new British Airways Visa Signature, I have become Avios-rich to the point where I don’t know what to do with them all. It’s introducing all sorts of new issues, including problems I love to have (see: Dilemma of the Day: Which Caribbean Island?).

Almost 64,000 Avios!

Almost 64,000 Avios!

What could I do with 64,000 Avios?

  • Take 7 trips to Montreal, Toronto, Boston, DC, Charlotte, or any other number of cool cities
  • Take 3 trips to islands in the Caribbean
  • Visit Vancouver for a long weekend
  • Go back to Hawaii

After I meet the next set of spending requirements, I’ll have well over 100,000 Avios and can do even more. I’ve also just discovered the BA eStore, which includes a few merchants I shop regularly at great payouts. I’m really getting into Avios for their practical purpose of short-haul flights (and for getting to Ireland on the cheaps!).

Now the only problem is finding the time to use them all…

I Hope US Airways Doesn’t Ruin American’s Culture

Don't eff this up

Don’t eff this up

Being on a Delta flight today made me realize I’ve quite gotten used to the style of Delta. Everything from the blue seat covers to the logo to the service offered by the flight attendants. There’s a certain no-nonsense, practical attitude that just feels right – it’s what I like most about travel on Delta metal.

That being said, I’ve quite warmed up to American Airlines over the past year. I think their upgrade policies are a lot more lenient than Delta’s, and as an Executive Platinum later this year, I really look forward to putting that to the test. Although it’s a bad comparison, I’ve been Silver Medallion on Delta and have taken all sorts of flights: hub, non-hub, short-haul, mid-haul, direct, etc. Never once have I received an upgrade. Compare that then, with the free upgrade I received on American over Christmas with no status and on a discount economy fare. How did I do it? I asked. Nicely. I’ve tried that with Delta a few times, and they laugh and roll their eyes cuz it ain’t gonna happen.

So, to the point. I’m warming up to American. But the things I see in US Airways, I don’t like at all. I know they have crazy generous routing rules with their Dividend Miles award redemptions, but what about service at a basic level? They feel stingy to me, nickel-and-dimed to death, and the markets they serve are places I don’t consider destinations. If I stick with American instead of Delta, I may connect in Charlotte or Philly every once in a while. I just hope US Airways doesn’t ruin the generous and attentive vibe that American has worked really hard to develop over the past few years.

I love that most of American’s FAs are “career” flight attendants. They run a tight ship, and I like that. They are also eager to serve snacks and meals in biz and first cabins, and overall just feel more open. I really dread Doug Parker stepping in and removing a lot of the things customers have gotten used to, introducing more fees, and overall cheapening the “New American.” I also hope US Airways simply fires all of their phone agents instead of combining them with American’s responsive crew.

Not to say American is all roses. In NYC, it’s a competitive market, obvi, and American loves to fly little regional jets out of LGA and JFK. Why, I’ll never know. They also don’t have a lot of transfer partners (I’m thinking Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards here). And their Admirals Clubs are set up to make you spend money, whereas I feel Delta is freer with the booze and snacks. Little things. But it’s the little things that end up mattering the most, right?

I’m cautiously watching from the sidelines as Delta implements a revenue component to their status program, and as American’s will undoubtedly take a few blows when it fully combines with US Airways. It’s not a question of if, it’s one of how much. Until then, I hope the “New American” doesn’t become worse.

I also cannot freaking wait to use Avios on the places US Airways flies. 2014 will certainly be interesting for the FF community.

Dilemma of the Day: Which Caribbean Island?

St. John, USVI

 

Just what the subject says. As part of the signup bonus for the shiny new British Airways Visa Signature that I got during my recent App-O-Rama, I will soon get at least 75,000 Avios – and hopefully 100,000 Avios. They’re great for short hops or some mid-haul jaunts under 1150 miles. The caveat is that they can only be used on places where Oneworld has routes. So no Philadelphia, no Burlington, no Portland (Maine), no Albany… surprising, right? But then I pulled up the American Airlines route map and the British Airways Avios Calculator to see where all I could go on the East Coast. My eyes drifted toward the equator, and I saw St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and St. John just sitting there all lined up like a row of temptresses.

For 20,000 Avios R/T in economy, American will fly me to:

  • St. Thomas (STT)
  • St. Maarten (SXM)
  • St. Kitts (SKB)

But NOT St. Croix (and St. John doesn’t have an airport). I haven’t experiment with other islands yet, but I did notice it was the same rate to Cancun, though I’m not really interested in going there. Even though it’s not a short- or mid-haul, 20K R/T to visit the Caribbean from New York is pretty good, right? And it’s much less points the further south you start out from. Which brings me to my dilemma. Which Caribbean island should I visit first? I’ve been to none of them and don’t know where to start. I know they’re all probably amazing, but which one is best for a beginner? The research continues, into the islands as well as into the value of Avios.  I’d love to go sometime between April and June.

This redemption really got the thinking when I saw it, so I thought I’d share. It might be old news to some, but sure brought a warm feeling to imagine those bright, sandy beaches. Really liking Avios right about now. And open to ideas!

My First App-O-Rama 2.22.13

On the evening of February 22, 2013, I had a little too much tequila and decided to do an app-o-rama. Not the best idea ever, as I caused myself to miss out on yet ANOTHER Amex bonus by not paying close enough attention to the T&C. I think I was little nervous about applying for three cards in one night.

I would’ve applied for four, but I’m sorta between jobs/projects right now and didn’t want to push it with the minimum spend requirements. Here’s what I ended up getting:

british-airways-visa

Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card

  • 50,000 Avios after spending $1,000 within three months
  • 25,000 more Avios after spending $10,000 in the first year
  • 25,000 MORE Avios after spending $20,000 in the first year

Why I got it:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart Chip Technology
  • Great earning structure: 2.5 Avios/dollar on BA and 1.25 on everything else. Pretty fantastic.
  • Avios are GREAT for short-haul trips under 650 miles – only 4,500 Avios each way in economy. But for short flights of ~2 hours, I couldn’t care less about class of service. This is great for visiting Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and other cities in the near-Northeast region. And it’s only 7,5000 Avios to Chicago (I love Chicago).  They’re also great for repositioning for mileage runs (I haven’t done one… yet.) This post from Extra Pack of Peanuts has a lot of great info about the Avios program.

AAdvantage Citi card

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within four months
  • 2 Admirals Club lounge passes
  • $150 Statement Credit on American Airlines

Why I got it: 

  • To build up my AAdvantage balance
  • I am thinking of switching the bulk of my flying from Delta to American
  • 1 free checked bag, priority boarding, and get 10% of miles redeemed back (up to 10,000 miles per year)
  • $85 annual fee is waived for the first year (so why not)

premier-rewards-gold amex

And the sore spot. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

I got in didn’t get in on this offer:

50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 within three months

Why I wanted it:

To build up my Membership Rewards balance

It has the best earning structure of all the MR cards (three points/dollar on airfare (four if booked thru Amex Travel), two at gas stations (moot point for NYC) and grocery stores (which could encourage me to not spend so much eating out!), and one point everywhere else.

I went ahead and put $1,000 of spend on it the first day JUST TO SEE if it would trigger the bonus or not. I’m not eligible for it because I already have the Platinum Card, but whatever. Anyone know how good Amex is about blocking bonuses for this reason? It’s entirely my fault – I should’ve read the T&C more closely. I blame first app-o-rama jitters and too much tequila.

I also really wanted to pick up the Ink Plus card from Chase while I was at it, but alas. The $5,000 spend within three months was a little bit much. Plus, I’ve got a lot of spending to put on the new British Airways card to unlock the full 100,000 Avios.

So that’s it. My first app-o-rama. I was instantly approved online for all three with nice credit lines on each, which made me feel really confident about my credit health. My travel goals for this round of apps are Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Dublin, Seattle, Alaska, and eventually, Australia. I’d also LOVE to fit in Vienna/Prague sometime this summer. 🙂